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Mr. GRAHAM. I thank the Senator from New Hampshire who authored this amendment which Senator McCain and I support. She spent a lot of time and effort trying to fix sequestration in the first year and trying to look at programs that are not as essential to the Nation, in my view, as the Department of Defense.
Let me put this in perspective. I don't need a poll to tell me what I think about this. The majority leader referenced some poll out there about where the American people are. I appreciate polling. It is a tool all politicians use. I don't need one here to know where I stand.
The question is, Do the people in South Carolina think I am right or wrong? I will have an election in 2014. I am certainly willing to stand before the people of South Carolina and say what we are doing in this sequestration proposal is ill-conceived, dangerous, and despicable.
Let's start with the Commander in Chief. This is what Mr. Lew said, our new Treasury Secretary:
Make no mistake, the sequester is not meant to be policy. Rather, it is meant to be an unpalatable option that all parties want to avoid.
That was their view of sequestration.
According to Bob Woodward and comments since, this idea came out of the White House. The White House thought that if we created a penalty clause for supercommittee failure called sequestration, where we would have to take $600 billion of the $1.2 trillion out of the Defense Department, that would make the supercommittee more likely to achieve a result. If we took $600 billion out of nondefense, that would put pressure on the supercommittee to get the right result.
We are going to spend $45 trillion over the next decade. The next question for the country is, Could we save $1.2 trillion without destroying the Defense Department and raising taxes? Yes, we could if we tried. Put me in the camp that this is an achievable spending cut. This is not something that is unachievable.
What Senator McConnell said is very important. Two-thirds of the budget, almost, is exempt from sequestration. When you hear Republicans say surely we can find $85 billion out of $3.5 trillion in spending--to my Republican colleagues, stop saying that. That is not accurate. We are not cutting $85 billion out of $3.5 trillion. We are cutting $85 billion out of about 1.3, 1.25, because the Budget Control Act took off the table two-thirds of the government from being cut.
I will get to the President in a minute, but let me talk a little bit about my party, the party of Ronald Reagan, the party of peace through strength. This is the party that believes--at least we used to--the No. 1 obligation of the Federal Government, before it does anything else, is to get national security right. That was what made Ronald Reagan.
That is what I believe. I don't need a poll to tell me that. I don't care if 90 percent of the people in the country said the Defense Department is not my primary concern when it comes to Federal budgeting. Count me in the 10 percent.
The party of Ronald Reagan, even though it came out of the White House, this very bad idea, agreed to it. What did we agree to? We agreed to take off the table two-thirds of the Federal Government.
Pell grants. My sister received a Pell grant when my parents died. It is a very important program. It helps people go to college who are low-income Americans. In 2008 it was $16.25 billion and in 2013 it is $41.57 billion.
Food stamps. A lot of people need help, I understand that. The Food Stamp Program has doubled since 2008.
I guess the Republican Party believes the Pell grants, food stamps, the FAA, and home mortgage interest deduction, and all this other stuff in the Federal Government should be shielded, but those who have been fighting the war that protects us all from radical Islam should be on the chopping block. Ronald Reagan should be rolling over in his grave. Shame on everybody who agreed this was a good idea on our side.
I cannot tell you how disgusted I am with the concept that when it comes time to cut--because the budget politicians can't reach an agreement--we fire the soldiers and keep the politicians and every other social program intact and put half the cuts on those who are fighting the war.
So the next time you go to a military base, good luck. We will look those men and women in the eye--I don't see how you could. I don't see how you could go onto a military base or see somebody in the airport, shake their hand and thank them for their service given the fact you have taken the Defense Department and made it something not very special anymore.
Secretary Panetta said: After 10 years of these cuts we would have the smallest ground forces since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history. This isn't like the drawdowns in the past when the potential enemy was disabled and in some way rendered ineffective. We are still confronting a number of threats in the world. It would decimate our defense. It would cripple us in terms of our ability to protect this country.
It would result in the hollowing out of our forces. It would terribly weaken our ability to respond to threats in the world. It is a ship without sailors. It is a brigade without bullets. It is an airwing without enough trained pilots. It is a paper tiger. In effect, it invites aggression. A hollow military doesn't happen by accident; it comes from poor stewardship and poor leadership.
I couldn't agree more.
To my Democratic colleagues, we are not going to raise any more taxes to spend money on the government. The next time I raise taxes, we are going to try to get out of debt. We are $17 trillion in debt, and every time there is a crisis in this Nation you want to raise taxes to pay for the government we already have. We have enough money to run this government. We need to spend it better.
To my Republican colleagues, there is not enough flexibility in the world to change the top line number. You either believe Secretary Panetta or you don't. You either believe every military commander--I don't trust everything a general tells me, but the question for me is do I trust all generals who tell me the same thing. Can all of them be wrong? It is one thing to have a dispute with a general or an admiral, but when every general and admiral tells you the same thing--and if we don't believe them, we need to fire them--we act accordingly.
As to the President, you have one obligation that nobody in this body has. You are the Commander in Chief of the United States. They trust you, they need you, and your primary goal is to take care of those in uniform and their families.
Mr. President, you have let them down. My party let them down, but you are different from any other politician. You are the Commander in Chief. How you could have considered this as an acceptable outcome just makes me sick to my stomach. I don't know how any Commander in Chief could have been comfortable with the idea that if the supercommittee fails, we are going to cut the military. You haven't lifted a finger in the last year to do anything about it. You finally go to a naval base down in Virginia, after the election, a few days before this kicks in.
To me, this is pathetic leadership by the Commander in Chief. This is an abandonment of the Republican Party's belief in peace through strength. This is a low point in my time in the U.S. Congress.
We are not going to raise taxes to fund the government. We are going to raise taxes in my construct to pay down debt and fix entitlements. I cannot tell you how ashamed I am of what we have done to those who have been busting their butts for the last 11 years, to those who have been deployed time and time again, and to their families.
The thank-you you receive from your President and your Congress is we are going to put your way of life on the chopping block. God, if we can't do better than that then all of us should be fired--politicians.
Mr. McCAIN. I would ask the Senator to yield to respond to one question.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Rhode Island.
Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, if I may interject, I believe I have the floor.
Mr. McCAIN. I have the right to ask a question from the person who has the floor.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from South Carolina has yielded for a question.
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Mr. GRAHAM. Well, I don't know if they do or not. We have done everything we can--the three of us--to tell them what is coming our way. All I can say is that every general and admiral who has told us the same thing, I respect what they are telling us. Leon Panetta is a Democrat, but he is dead right. He has been a great Secretary of Defense. I trust their judgment.
I know enough about the military budget to know if we take $600 billion out of their budget, on top of the $487 billion, plus the $89 billion, we are going to make them less able to defend our Nation, putting our men and women at risk, and that is what this debate is about.
I wish to thank Senator Ayotte, who came up with an alternative to avoid this without raising taxes.
My time is up. I don't know who is next, but I yield the floor.
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